Paying people money to lose weight works

Paying people with obesity cash to lose a certain amount of weight or engage in weight-loss activities works better than many other methods, according to a new study.

Cash beats offering standalone free tools like weight loss programs, diet books, and wearable fitness trackers, the researchers report.

Researchers tracked the weight-loss efforts of 668 low-income, mostly Hispanic men and women, whose average weight at baseline was 218 pounds, for up to a year. Researchers randomly assigned all participants to one of three incentive rates for six months, including some who received cash payments and those who didn’t.

Published in the magazine JAMA Internal Medicine, the results show that offering cash directly to study participants, averaging a total of $440, was most effective in the short term if they lost at least 5% of their original body weight (about 10 pounds). Of those offered cash, 49% lost that weight after six months. That number dropped to just 41% after a full year of follow-up.

Similarly, during the first study period, you will pay other study volunteers an average of $303 to achieve weight loss goals, e.g. B. Attending at least two weight loss counseling classes per month, weighing yourself at least three times per week, or exercising at least 75 minutes per week were also effective. Approximately 39% of these study participants lost 5% of their baseline weight after six months, and almost 42% lost the minimum weight after 12 months of monitoring.

The researchers offered all study participants a free one-year voucher for the Weight Watchers program, which included weight-loss classes, counseling and tips. They also provided wearable fitness equipment (Fitbits), digital scales, and food diaries so subjects could track their weight during and after the study.

One in five of those who received no financial incentives and were only offered the free tools lost the minimum weight after six months. But that grew to almost a third after a year.

“Our study provides strong evidence that offering incentives, particularly cash rewards, even if only for six months, helps people of limited resources struggling with obesity lose weight,” said study lead associate Melanie Jay Professor in the Medical School and Division of Public Health at New York University Langone Health. “However, any weight loss incentive can work, even if it just offers the tools to do it.”

Jay warns that while the study results showed short-term benefits, more research is needed to see if these weight losses are sustained over many years and whether regular “booster” incentives are needed to sustain the reductions over the long term.

While incentives tied to actual weight loss performed better in the short term, incentives tied to weight loss goals evened out after one year. According to Jay, this suggests that goal-oriented financial rewards last longer than others over the long term.

More research is needed among more diverse groups, where obesity is a problem for many, she says, not just urban Hispanics living with obesity. These groups include Blacks, Native Americans, and United States military veterans, who have been identified by federal health officials as being disproportionately affected by obesity.

Interventions are needed to address the ongoing obesity epidemic in the US. National reports estimate that more than 40% of American adults are obese, defined as having a body mass index or BMI over 30, a measure of height and weight.

“Beyond encouragement and education, new tools are needed to help some people struggling with obesity,” says Jay, who also serves as director of NYU Langone’s Comprehensive Program on Obesity.

“There is no single solution to America’s mounting weight problem. Our national approach must encompass multiple approaches, including incentives tailored to the diverse needs of groups most affected by obesity-related diseases and diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.”

For the study, which ran from November 2017 to May 2021, researchers recruited volunteers from hospital clinics in New York City and Los Angeles, where diet, exercise routine, and weight loss could be easily tracked through monthly visits. The participants were between 18 and 70 years old and all came from neighborhoods with an average income of less than US$40,000. For those receiving cash incentives, monthly payments were made if weight was lost or goals were met.

Additional co-authors are from the University of Florida, UCLA, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Cornell University and NYU.

The National Institutes of Health supported the work.

Source: NYU

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *